In the midst of a middling SIHH 2019, Montblanc released a handful of watches truly worth people’s attention. They’ve carefully rolled out interesting uses of green- and salmon-dialed watches, and I’m going to discuss two pieces in the latter category that demonstrate how Montblanc’s Heritage Collection is delivering on their higher-end as well as entry-level pieces. The alluringly arcane Montblanc Heritage Pulsometer Limited Edition has gotten the most attention for the brand this year. The 100-watch-run “doctor’s watch” isn’t a gimmick when you consider that the Manufacture monopusher chronograph movement is an absolute wonder that puts the word “Minerva” alongside “Montblanc.”
Priced at about 1/14th of the Heritage Pulsometer is the Montblanc Heritage Automatic watch, seen here with a salmon dial (though it’s also available in an admittedly less interesting silver-white dial). While it won’t light the world on fire, a dress watch under $2,000 with such a nicely done salmon dial is pretty seductive, since it clearly stands out, but without peacocking.
The Pulsometer complication is pretty obscure, as the need for doctors to check someone’s heart rate with their watch is virtually nonexistent. However, this watch uses the Montblanc Villeret-made Calibre MB M13.21 movement. This manual-wind column-wheel chronograph is based directly off the Minerva 13.20 movement that dates back nearly a century — to the 1920s when it was one of the earliest chronograph movements made. We’ve seen the M13.21 used in previous Montblanc watches alongside other Minerva movements in their high-end pieces.
Going beyond the movement, the steel Heritage Pulsometer design is influenced by Minerva watches from the 1940s and 1950s. Fortunately, Montblanc kept the case size at 40mm, which shows some prudent design restraint, and it works proportionally with a case thickness of 12.65mm.
The Heritage Pulsometer has a domed box-shaped crystal over the domed dial. The design cues from older Minerva watches are apparent throughout, and my eye was immediately drawn to the dots used as hour markers on the textured “grené” inner ring of the dial. The granulated effect on the ring contrasts with the rest of the brushed dial in quite a stark way, which took me a while to get comfortable with. I do appreciate the character that this adds to the watch, though.
The Dauphine hands are the obvious and correct choice here, though the use of lume on the hands does take away from the feel of the piece. There is a guilloched seconds subdial at 9 o’clock and a 30-minute chronograph counter subdial at 3 o’clock. I love the use of the “international payphone indications” at 3, 6, and 9 minutes on the chronograph counter. While not terribly useful, it just lends charm and personality in a subtle way.
With the impressive movement to back it up, it’s the use of the absolutely perfect salmon color on the textured and contrasting dial that results in a watch that’s offbeat without trying too hard.
I think it’s apparent that Montblanc knew they had something people would fall for with this salmon color and style of dial. Fortunately, for those not able to pay the price for one of the 100 Heritage Pulsometers, the new Montblanc Heritage Automatic is a perfectly pared-down three-hand watch. I want to note how glad I am that Montblanc chose to leave out the date window here.
At 40mm wide and 11.65mm thick, the Heritage Automatic uses the Calibre MB 24.26 movement. The automatic movement operates at 28,800 vph and has a 38-hour power reserve. Visible through an exhibition case back (note: we somehow forgot to shoot the case back here, but can confirm it’s aesthetically very similar to this style), neither the movement nor the finishes here are going to stun you, especially after the Pulsometer. However, the movement is a reliable one, and the finish and quality of the dial is the draw here.
The dial is super-simple, but really does not look or feel like a cheaper version. In fact, the aspects the Pulsometer and Automatic share in common are identical, other than the slightly thinner case. Both watches come on a Grey Sfumato alligator skin strap, as well.
Montblanc is starting 2019 well, and their use of salmon-colored dials is absolutely going to attract a lot of people who like a watch that can stand out without being overtly attention-seeking. The limited edition Montblanc Heritage Pulsometer is priced at €28,000, while the three-hand Montblanc Heritage Automatic on a leather strap is priced at € 1,950. ($2,270 USD) You can see more at montblanc.com.